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Lightning Round: Alex Volkov still needs cooking

And no, the Tampa Bay Lightning are not bad at defense.

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NHL: NHL Awards Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the road for the rest of January, starting with tonight’s 8 PM game against the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are currently one of the worst teams in the league, and Tampa is once again eyeing the top of the charts. Pausing to count our blessings, it’s such a pleasure to watch this team again, even if they do things like dig a two-goal hole in the first before battling back to win it all in a shootout. Thanks? Especially from my adrenaline gland.

Speaking of, Matt wrote out his thoughts on the game against the LA Kings yesterday. One of his more interesting points is that Tampa is no longer a one-line or even two-line team, and maybe this is what will take us far in playoffs again:

Last season was about the Lightning’s top end talent absolutely dominating the league. This season we’re seeing the supporting cast rise up more than before. Cirelli, Sergachev, Alex Killorn (prepare for the implosion of Lightning twitter when he hits 20 goals), Shattenkirk, Mitchell Stephens, and Ondrej Palat have all made noticeable impacts on how the Lightning have played this season. Some have impacted the score sheet more than others, but all of them have provided a level of support to Steven Stamkos, Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy that has helped buoy the Lightning when the stars aren’t at their best.

That’s the kind of depth that teams win championships with.

And if you haven’t read Alan’s interesting article about how the Lightning’s “good offense, bad defense” reputation is untrue, now would be a good time. You can point out that Tampa’s defense has always been good — it’s the goaltending that has been suspect.

So to answer our question as to what type of team the Lightning are, they’ve always been good defensively but have at times been let down by subpar goaltending. The biggest change over the last few seasons is their improvement from a team that relies almost entirely on their shooting talent to score goals to one that can still shoot the lights out, but also generates good both quality and quantity in terms of the shots they take.

(For some insight on what’s going on with Tampa’s goaltending this season, please go re-read this piece over here about Frantz Jean.)

Yesterday, Joe also wrote an interesting piece about Alex Volkov. (Paid content).

With Volkov, it’s always been about consistency. Can he put it all together?

“He’ll tease you,” said an NHL scout. “I’ve watched him in Syracuse in warmups, and watch the start of the game, and you get excited, everything is there. And as the game goes on, you wait for it, you wait for it, and most of the times, it doesn’t show up. You’re like, ‘OK, maybe I was at the wrong game.’ But the next game, same thing.”

This resonates with me, especially because Volkov looked terrible in the streak-breaking match against the New Jersey Devils. In our Morning After Thoughts, Alan pointed out that he looked overwhelmed on the ice, letting himself get physically overpowered while also not shooting much. From that recap:

Given how he struggled during his first call up, I would not be surprised if he heads to back to Syracuse tomorrow. And in terms of my personal evaluation, I think I’ve seen enough for this season. He struggled to compete physically this weekend getting bullied multiple times along the boards. That combined with his lack of production is enough for me to think he’s not ready for the NHL yet.

So, does Volkov need a little more cooking before he can hold his own in the NHL? He hasn’t been returned to the Syracuse Crunch yet (although maybe that’s coming depending on the health of the forwards), so we might get more chances to evaluate his play on the road. On the positive side, he looked much better on Tuesday against the Kings so maybe that can be the start of a trend toward improvement.

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Eep. You gotta think that Jon Cooper is not feeling complacent this season.

And this will start your Thursday right: